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Discipline, Action, Responsibility, Excellence

Webequie – Celebrating is worth doing!

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Post written by DAREarts Lead Teacher & Director of Urban Programs, Geneviève Anthony.

It has been just over a week since I returned from Webequie, the aboriginal fly-in only community at the 55thParallel in Northern Ontario. 
I have been reluctant to sit down and write this final entry as it will be acknowledging that DAREarts Webequie 2012 is finished, and it will be another year before we return.
Webequie is an inspiring community of people who deal with challenges through laughter and joy, appreciating each day for the gift that it is. They take each opportunity to celebrate very seriously, whether it is to pay homage to a community member, celebrating Halloween, or the DAREarts Celebratory Performance. The people of Webequie understand hardship and therefore choose to celebrate success.
Ready for the show!
This year’s performance took place on Saturday October 27th in the Simon Jacob Memorial Education Center’s gym at 3:20pm. The gym was filled with nearly 300 people: sleeping babies, energetic toddlers, giggling tweens, casual teens, excited parents and proud grandparents. The smell of moose stew wafted from the kitchen where the elderly women had been cooking since 10:00am. The little ones peeked their heads into the kitchen eyeing the warm sliced bannock. Conversation filled the gym with a roar of sound. The Pre-show music was barely audible as people took the opportunity to walk around and greet each other. The moccasin table was surrounded like the Mona Lisa as the community proudly saw the tradition passed on to their youth.
Moccasins on show for all to see
Some of the DAREarts performers darted to the bathroom out of nervousness as they anxiously waited for the show to begin while some stood guard backstage, ready to go on in an instant.
The all girl’s Shuffle Group went on first. Their reined-in energy exploded on stage as their feet swept through the popular two-step move. The audience hollered and cheered for much of their 5 minute set. When they were finished they raced off stage beaming with pride.
While the DAREarts group of 25 students waited back stage for their moment, much was happening on stage. Bob Wabasse and Elder Rosalee blessed the evening with both a smudge as well as the “Our Father” in Oji-Cree, multi-disciplined Aboriginal artist Cathy Elliott sang a new song, B-boy dance instructor/choreographer Lee ‘Lethal’ Pham presented his speakers to a group of students, aboriginal fashion designer D’Arcy Moses presented pelts to the school on behalf of DAREarts, program graduate and musician Eric Shewaybick received the guitar donated by Long and McQuade and traditional dancers Devin, Sampson, and Bob danced. The DAREarts youth remained focused yet clearly nervous as they waited for their cue to begin. Their discipline and patience was remarkable as they stood supporting one another through smiles, hugs and stifled giggles as they waited for their cue.

All ages performing a traditional dance
Then the all-encompassing crashing waves of the Old Man Bear singing/drumming group signaled for them to begin! The students charged the stage with the liquid robotic moves of b-boying. The audience who had been relatively vocal was suddenly quiet.
The hush remained as the 7 parts of the performance unraveled. The youth belted out their Oji-Cree song with the lyrics STAND UP.  By the time the b-boying solos were performed the audience members’ faces were in awe of the moves and that their shy, reticent youth were manipulating their bodies in unseen ways.
When the show finished with the group’s final verse, a single huge holler escaped from the audience and then the crowd erupted into applause.
The feast after the performance was wonderful. I didn’t eat as there were too many important conversations to have. “Will you be back next year?” “When are you returning?” “Can there be more kids next year?” “What about doing this next year?” “What are you doing next year?” “Thank you so much! I can’t believe my daughters were up there doing that! They are so shy!”, “How did they do that?” “Thank you!” “Thank you!” “Thank you!”

 A proud group of students
Thank you Webequie! Thank you DAREarts!
Webequie is special and so is DAREarts; when our two worlds come together we create living dreams. It should be noted that the Shuffle Girls were not a part of the DAREarts program and yet they felt safe and welcomed enough to approach us and independently integrate their passion for dance into the show. The courage and discipline it took for them to inquire, audition, rehearse and finally present within the greater vision is a testament to the success of the relationship DAREarts and Webequie hold dear. As the main liaison with the group, I did not water down our expectations, nor did I lower the standard of being punctual, organized, communicative and prepared. Every bar that I raised, they reached for. Why? Because celebrating is worth doing and they wanted to be part of a relationship that the community of Webequie supports, values and celebrates.
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